In the early days of the colony, produce from farms at Kissing Point and Parramatta was unloaded and sold at the public wharf on the western side of Sydney Cove. The congestion this unofficial marketplace created around the wharf became a problem, resulting in an 1806 government order creating the first official Sydney market in an open space nearby.
Whereas great inconvenience attends Boats which come loaded with Vegetables and other Articles for barter with the Inhabitants and others at Sydney; it is ordered that in future no Purchase shall be made until everything is landed at the place now appointed; and that the Market shall not be considered to be opened until Seven o’Clock in the Morning. The said Market Place shall extend from the End Paling of Daniel McKay’s Garden, in the middle of High-street, towards the Parade.
Sydney Gazette, August 24, 1806
Before long, this space also proved inadequate and the market was moved south along George Street to the Parade Ground.
In 1810, the new Governor, Lachlan Macquarie, arrived in Sydney and began a series of public works. Among them was the relocation of the market to a more central position in the town. The new market was located on “that Piece of open Ground…bounded by George-street on the East, York-street on the West, Market-street on the North, and the Burying-ground on the South.” The area was named Market Square and was linked by a good road to a new Market Wharf at Cockle Bay. Another of Macquarie’s initiatives, the wharf was “For the further Accommodation and Convenience of the Inhabitants in general, and particularly of those Persons bringing Corn or other Grain, Goods, or other Merchandize, in Vessels or Boats from the Hawkesbury, & c. to the Market…”
While the first Sydney market and its relocated successors were open-air markets, Macquarie soon commissioned a new central market building. Over the following decades, a number of buildings were erected and demolished, culminating in the construction of the Queen Victoria Building in 1898. The QBV had a fresh food market in the basement with fashionable shops on the upper floors.
Meanwhile, market activity including cattle and feed sales had continued in an area known as the Haymarket, south of Darling Harbour. In 1869, a new fruit and vegetable market known as the Belmore Market was constructed on the site of the old cattle market. Fruit and vegetable sales continued at Paddy’s Market in the Haymarket area until the main market was relocated to Flemington in 1975.